Friday, 7 November 2014

Pizzeria Giotto @ Meechok Plaza

Pizza Giotto is a relatively new Italian restaurant opened earlier this year by a young Thai chef. She did a fantastic job with the restaurant providing lovely Italian fare, including thin crust wood fired pizzas, lovely pasta, and various other dishes. There's even breakfast too!

Another good thing about it is, it's just a few doors down from my office at Meechok Plaza. This is welcomed addition to the various restaurants and eateries, providing a nice mix of International cuisines from Thai to Chinese to Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese...and now Italian.

The service is very friendly and warm, and the staff very well trained.

Ok...on with the food!

Ceasar Salad with Prawns. This this the first time I've had caesar salad with prawns, and it was lovely! Beautiful, creamy dressing that I can just keep eating non stop. The prawns were well seasoned and full of flavour, and I was quite pleasantly surprised with this as the prawns I've had in Thailand are generally tasteless. 185 baht.

Pesto Pizza - also quite lovely, cooked in one of those impressive igloo looking wood fire pizza ovens. Crispy thin crusted pizza topped with pesto sauce (crushed garlic, basil, parsley and nuts blended with parmesan and olive oil) and topped with mozzarella cheese. I love the thin crust that actually felt quite healthy, and I was able to un-guiltily enjoy the pizza...after all, there's lot of calcium in cheese, right? The flavours, by the way, came together very well.

Just as a general note:  I find the food at Pizzeria Giotto not too salty, and I could enjoy the "real" flavours of the cheese (beautiful!), and the pesto sauce.  250 baht.

The Oven

Home Made Potato Fries. I think potato chips and fries must be the ultimate comfort food. I particularly like thick cut fries and potato fries / wedges. There's something about biting into the crispy "skin" into the warm and soft "centres" that's immensely satisfying, especially on a rainy day or when you're tired and hungry! So...being very hungry and tired that day, I couldn't help myself but order these potato fries served with spicy mayonnaise... And the fries were scrumptious, especially with the paprika sprinkled on top for a little added kick. 95 Baht.

Spaghetti Olio Garlic, Prawns, Mushrooms and Dried Chilli. This was a great dish infused with beautiful garlic aroma, and quite strongly flavoured and pretty spicy. The prawns were very well seasoned. A very nice dish. 250 baht.

The Verdict

The food here is very nice, and the staff very friendly and knowledgable. Great addition to the variety of restaurants at Meechok Plaza. Not cheap, but comparable to other Italian restaurants around town.

Pizzeria Giotto
206/24 Meechok Plaza
T Faham, A Muang, Chiang Mai
Tel: 0835821551
Opens: 10am-9pm (Closed on Tuesdays)

I'm trying out the New Google Maps. Hope you like it!

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Baetong. (Baetong Chicken Rice Shop) - ข้าวมันไก่เบตง

My father kept telling me that there's this new Baetong Chicken Rice shop on the way to Mae Jo University, and how the chicken rice is SO good there. Naturally, I had to try it...and he was right. The chicken rice here is great!

...But... What is Baetong Chicken Rice? I've heard of Hainanese Chicken Rice, which is where chicken rice originated, but Baetong?

Baetong is actually a district in Yala, Southern Thailand. It's also the name of a species of chicken that was brought over to Thailand when the Chinese immigrated to Baetong District over 100 years ago.

Baetong species of chicken, I've read, have a soft-chewy texture and crispy skin with less fat than the species that are normally used.

To add to the confusion, "Baetong" here is also the name of the eatery, as well as the name of the dish served, and the name of the species of chicken used!

So, Baetong (as in the name of the shop)'s Baetong chicken rice, is, as mentioned earlier, is great. The rice is perfectly cooked and fluffy. The chicken is plump and juicy. The soup has a soft, slightly sweet, mild flavour - a perfect compliment to the dish. The sauces are wonderful. I love, particularly, the sauce on the left hand side (see photo below). Both sauces have ginger and chilli, but the sauce on the left also has dao jiew (bean paste), which adds another dimension to the complexity of flavours. It's perfect on the chicken and rice.

As with other chicken rice restaurant, we can also choose fried chicken instead of steamed chicken. I'm more of a traditionalist and don't tend to order the fried chicken - chicken rice, but apparently, it's very good as well.

If you can't decide which one to go for, you can always ask for half steamed chicken and half fried chicken. I think I'll do that next time just to see what the fried chicken is like. There are other combinations available too - e.g. steamed chicken with innards; steamed chicken, fried chicken and crispy skin pork on chicken rice..... Boat noodle is also served here.

Price: from around 40 baht.

Baetong Chicken Rice Shop
Location: Mae Jo-Phrao Rd

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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Shanghai Long (Shanghai Dragon) Chinese Restaurant

I remember going to Shanghai Long once before when they first opened at The Harbour about a year ago. The restaurant looked very inviting, and the promise of Shanghai style food in Chiang Mai was rather exciting! Chiang Mai definitely could use another Chinese restaurant. My usual haunt - Jia Tong Heng is great, but it's nice to have a change every now and then!

Interesting enough, Shanghai Long was the first Chinese restaurant I have been to that didn't have chopsticks! (Shock! Horror! Chinese Restaurant without chopsticks!). I even asked the waiter at the time and he said they didn't have any. The food, I remembered, was pretty good though. Not sure if it was Shanghai style, but I remember enjoying it.

Fast forward a year later, I thought I'll give Shanghai Long a try again. This time, The Harbour was really quiet, and the restaurant also not really busy. The chopsticks were there though!.. And the extensive menu looked so great it got our stomachs grumbling.

The first dish - Tokyo Pork Ribs - deep fried pork ribs in a sticky, honey soy sauce. This was really nice. The ribs came sizzling hot, and full of salty sweet flavour. Unfortunately, some of the pieces were still red inside, and we had to send them back to the kitchen. A new serving was promptly made with smaller pieces of ribs (less fat too!). 120 baht.

Seabass Steamed with Soy Sauce - This was nice and the fish quite fresh. I find the flavour of the soy sauce on the mild side. 450 baht

Morning Glory Stir-fried with Shrimp Paste - It was quite good, and the morning glory fresh and stems crispy,  but I thought there was something missing from the dish - not quite sure..may be chillis?  80 baht

Stir-fried Fresh Noodles in Thick Sauce with fish. This looked really good. The "thick sauce" is actually black bean sauce, which gave a nice flavour and fragrance to the dish. Nice noodles, but a little on the oily side. 90 baht.

The Verdict

Shanghai Long is a pretty good Chinese restaurant with a large selection on the menu to choose from. The prices are pretty reasonable, and the ambience is quite nice. Best of all, there's a lot of parking at The Harbour. If you're in the area, it's worth a try.

Shanghai Long
Facebook page
The Harbour Shopping Centre
Huay Kaew Road.
Opens daily: 11am-10pm
Tel: 053 213682-3

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pun Pun (Lung Mor / behind Chiang Mai University branch)

Chiang Mai is a great place for vegetarian food. There are so many wonderful vegetarian restaurants out there, and I must say Thai vegetarian food is fantastic - generally healthy, fresh, and tasty sans meat version of the whatever Thai dish.

Pun Pun is actually a small organic farm and seed saving centre, as well as a self-sustainable community in the countryside of Chiang Mai. They promote sustainable living, and you can actually take courses there from how to build mud huts to organic farming.

They currently have 2 restaurants in Chiang Mai, and another branch is being built. The original restaurant is at Wat Suan Dok (Suan Dok Temple) on Suthep Rd. It's a simple set up, but very atmospheric eating under the bodhi tree and watching monks walk past. A couple of foodie friends introduced me to the restaurant a while ago, and I thought the food and drinks were lovely.

The other night, I had a chance to visit Pun Pun's 2nd branch "Lung Mor"(behind Chiang Mai University). It seems that the menu is pretty similar to the 1st branch, and has dizzying array of interesting dishes to choose from!

The Salad Dok Mai sounded particularly fascinating - edible deep fried flower salad & greens. It looked really pretty too, and the serving is quite large. There are lovely and crispy deep fried flowers on top of a bed of salad greens. I asked the staff what the flowers are, but he said he doesn't know. He just knows that there are rose My guess is that bougainvillea flowers are used. The salad is served with a refreshing side dressing - which I think might be made from pumpkin. 65 baht.

The Gang Musaman (musaman curry) is quite lovely too, and comes with serving of very nice brown/red rice, perfectly cooked. The taste is quite surprising - quite different from the mussaman curries I've had before. I half expected a sweeter tasting curry, but Pun Pun's version is more savoury and has more spice than other mussamans I have tried. The mushroom, tofu and potato give the curry a nice texture and crunch. 55 baht.

Nam Hed Song Kreung (homemade fermented mushroom sausage with garlic, lime, onion and ginger). Nam is a common local dish, normally made from fermenting pork, rice, garlic, salt, sugar, chilli,..etc for a few days. The fermentation process gives the dish a sour flavour. This is actually one of my favourite Thai dishes, particularly Deep Fried Nam Pork Ribs!

Ok ok..back to the mushroom "sausage" (which is actually hidden under the coriander leaves in the photo below!). I must say the mushroom "sausage" tastes rather like the "real" thing (i.e. the pork variety), and pretty similar texture too.

I'm not too sure if Westerners would appreciate the flavours of this dish, but if you'd like to try something different, I'd say give it a go. I think it's quite nice, and goes very well with the chillis, lime, shallots and cashew nuts. 60 baht.

Now to dessert... astoundingly, Pun Pun offers some rather exciting sounding vegetarian desserts! I think these are brought in from somewhere else, but the offering looks amazing from the photos and the description shown on the menu.

We opted from the Mango Cheesecake. Ingredients include mango, cashews, coconut, vanilla, dates, himalayan salt, love and consciousness. I mean, who can resist? Got to to try it. The "cheesecake" is served cold and really lovely and refreshing, albeit on the cute & small side! It's a bit like a smooth mango mousse on a firm coconutty base. Very, very nice.

The drinks are great too. There's a large range of herbal drinks, juices, smoothies and shakes to choose from. I went for the Iced lemongrass, hydrocortyle and mint drink and it was perfect compliment for the food and the hot, sticky weather.   30 baht.

Pun Pun Vegetarian Restaurant 

Branch 1 - Pun Pun Wat Suan Dok
At the back of Suan Dok Temple, Suthep Rd
Tel: 084 365 6581
Opens daily from 9am-4pm.

Branch 2 - Pun Pun Lung Mor
Suthep Rd, at the base of the mountain & near the entrance to D-Condo.
Tel: 086 181 6051
Opens from 10am-8pm

Please check out Google Maps for location!

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Monday, 11 August 2014

Giorgio Italian Restaurant (Revisited!)

Quite a few years ago, when people ask what's the best Italian Restaurant in Chiang Mai, Giorgio was often mentioned. Over the last few years, the number of great Italian / Mediterranean restaurants have mushroomed (lucky for Chiang Mai!) and so the name "Giorgio" has taken a backseat.

I had the opportunity to revisit this Italian restaurant when a friend from Japan recently came to Chiang Mai. Just down the road from the Night Bazzar where my friend was staying, Giorgio was in a good location to have a quiet dinner away from the hustle and bustle of Loi Khro Rd and Night Bazaar.

I found the service excellent and attentive, and the food lovely.

After taking orders, a plate of a couple of rather unassuming bruschetta appeared on our table. I didn't even bother to take a photo. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but it just didn't look as fancy and photo worthy as other bruschettas I've tried around town! But biting into the tomato topped bread, I really enjoyed the smooth flavours and the softish warmed bread. Now I which I have taken photos to show you!

A very tempting basket of bread and herbed butter was also offered, but I didn't have these as I was anticipating a rather large meal ahead.

First dish - Salmon Carpaccio. This isn't normally a dish I'd normally picked, but I guess it reminded my Japanese friend of Salmon Sashimi! The Salmon Carpaccio turned out to be wonderful - the thin slices of salmon was layered on a bed of rocket leaves, and topped with lemon zest and red peppercorns, and at the time of serving, drizzled with olive oil. Very lovely indeed! 290 baht.

The Grilled Vegetables came next. This was also very nice. The grilled zucchini (my favourite here) was superb with a slight smokey / burnt flavour and complimented well with herbs (not sure which kind) and the smoothness and roundness of the olive oil. The other veggies - grilled eggplant and capsicum were great too, but I liked the zucchini the best. 120 baht.

The Salmon Fettuccine with Tomato Cream Sauce was also lovely. Actually, we ended up choosing it because we couldn't decide whether to go for a tomato based or creamy pasta! In any case, we weren't disappointed. The ribbons of fettuccine itself was perfectly cooked (as far as I can tell!) - al dente. The flavours were perfect too, especially for me. I often find the taste of Italian food from restaurants (especially in Chiang Mai) too salty. However, I thought Giorgio made this dish just right. The smooth creaminess of the sauce was a dream. 290 baht.

Needless to say, there weren't anything left on any of the plates by the time we finished with these dishes!

Oh..and the house red was very nice too. I suppose it'd better be good at 280 baht/glass.

Giorgio Italian Restataurant
2/6 Prachasamphan Rd.
Changklan, Muang, Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 271866
Mob: 086 185 6327
Opens: 11:30am-2:30pm for lunch ; 6pm-10:30pm for dinner
Reservation recommended

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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Bird's Nest Cafe

Healthy and delicious Thai and Mediterranean food are the order of the day for this homey little cafe in Chiang Mai Old City. 

Set in an old Thai teak house, Bird's Nest Cafe has a nice an relaxing ambience with a nice little corner on the 1st floor, and a place to lounge around on the 2nd floor.  

As we enter, we were greeted by a friendly lady on the counter / bar. We do need to place the order here and pay first before taking our seats. 

The menu is not huge, but there is a good range of breakfast; western food, including various types of sandwiches with options of homemade breads - pita, croissant, foccacia, ciabatta and whole wheat; various breakfast sets, tortilla wraps and salads. There are also some Thai dishes available. 

We decided to order one Western dish and one Thai dish, as well as the special Bird's Nest Coffee Latte (mixed coffee with cardamon, cinnamon, clove and star anise).

The coffee was ordered "mai wan" i.e. "not sweet". The spiced coffee was slightly bitter, had an interesting flavour, as you would have guessed from the ingredients! After tasting the coffee, I would have liked a bit more sugar! 65 baht. 

Interestingly, the straw used was of the non-disposable variety, and this fits well with Bird's Nest Cafe's philosophy of looking after our planet - they try to use less plastic and encourage customers to bring their own containers for take away food and drink. 

Organic ingredients and local produce are used as much as possible. A lot of products used, incidentally, are from Pun Pun. 

Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich with Tomato and Onion - We can choose from the various types of bread available (as listed above), and also from two "sauces" - cashew nut pesto or the sour cream garlic oregano.  We went for the foccacia with cashew nut pesto, and we weren't disappointed! The focaccia was very nice, especially with the very generous dollop of the cashew nut pesto (actually, more like half a jar rather than a dollop!) that gives a creamy and nutty accent to the "sandwich". Actually, I probably could have just eaten a jar the pesto by itself!  95 baht

Now onto the Thai dish - Tom Kha Mushrooms (Mushroom coconut soup) with brown rice. Tom Kha is one of my favourite Thai soups, so I was quite eager to taste Bird's Nest Cafe's tom kha. In case you don't know, this soup is a bit like Tom Yum soup with coconut milk added. The coconut milk tones down the strong spiciness in Tom Yum and gives a more mellow and rich flavour.

So how is Bird's Nest Cafe's Tom Kha? It's actually quite nice, but the flavours have been toned town, I guess to suit the mainly Western and Japanese clientele (from my observation from the one time I've been to the cafe!). Although it wasn't spicy at all (at least to me!), I still enjoyed it a lot.  85 baht (includes a plate of brown rice.. in this case!).

Bird's Nest Cafe is a lovely and comfortable place to relax and have some good healthy food. The rest of the menu seems quite tempting too, and would love to go back to try it if I get the chance. I particularly like their philosophy of looking after the planet, and serving as much organic ingredients as much as possible. 

Singaharat Rd Soi 3
Opens daily 9am-8pm
Music and Film events on Friday nights.

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Monday, 14 July 2014

Wo Wo Tou - Chinese Fusion Restaurant

Wo Wo Tou is the name of the this new Chinese Restaurant's specialty dish - steamed bun made with corn and soy flour. The waitress also mentioned that there is pumpkin in it as well. The bun has a hole in it where you can put in fillings.

Wo Wo Tou also happens to double as the name of the restaurant too, as you might have noticed from the title of the post!

This is actually the first time I've seen this Northern Eastern Chinese dish, and this sense of novelty actually  extends to a lot of the other dishes from Wo Wo Tou's extensive menu which comprises of dishes from various parts of China. The "fusion" bit, I guess, means Thai-Chinese fusion to suit the taste of local Thais.

This is probably what sets this restaurant apart from other Chinese restaurants in Chiang Mai - You can try a lot of dishes here that's not available (as far as I know!) else where in Chiang Mai.

Ok..on with the review.. first dish.. Wo Wo Tou. The buns are served steaming hot, and are slightly chewy with a smooth texture and slightly sweet taste. A little heavier than mantou (Chinese steamed buns). You can choose between 3 fillings - catfish, pork or chicken, all stir-fried with pickled mustards, garlic, scallion, parsley and spices. We chose the pork, which was very nice. The filling is quite strong in flavour - salty and a bit sweet,  and the more prominent sourness from the pickled mustard, which goes very well with the buns. There is a bit of sauce from the stir-fry, which makes the whole thing nice and juicy. 220 bath for the set (with 4 buns). Extra buns cost 10 baht each.

It's also interesting to note that this restaurant also focuses on the fact that food can be used as medicine and the menu tells us what each dish is good for. For example, wo wo tou works as a kidney tonic.

The Spicy Tofu is pretty much the regular mapo tofu. Given the name, I thought it would be quite spicy, but the flavour is quite mild (for me!). The fermented soy beans add a depth and richness to the dish. 180 baht.

This dish is good for "menopause and prevents many diseases such as cancer, blood clot..".

Fried Chicken with Dried Chilli - This one is for people who loves strong spicy flavour.. and as a bonus, you get the mouth and lip numbing, tingling  "ma-la" flavour from Sichuan cuisine. "Ma" is the Chinese term for the numbing effect from sichuan peppers. "La" means spicy. May be the numbness helps us to eat more chilli!

In this dish, the meat from the chicken thigh is fried with the sichuan peppers, salt, and heaps of roasted chillies. My mouth and lips were left slight numb and and quite tingly after eating the chicken. Loved it! 190 baht.

This dish, according to the menu, is great for reducing blood sugar level and increasing blood flow.

There are a lot of other interesting sounding dishes as well, including Over the Bridge Noodles (a Yunnan dish), Frog Spicy Soup, Fried Duck Mouth (!). For the not so adventurous, there are also "normal" sounding dishes as Mushroom Salad, Sweet Potato Soup, Sweet and Sour Fish...

The restaurant, in addition to serving good food, is also nicely furnished. The outdoor section is lovely, and overlooks a stream and bushes. The only complaint I would have is that it's right on the busy Mae Jo Rd, so it can get a bit noisy from the cars zooming past.

If you look closely at the top left photo (below), you may notice some fans under the seats on the edge of the restaurant. Very interesting! I guess it would be nice sitting there on a hot day...our legs certainly won't get hot...and it might also work as a mosquito repellant too (I guess!).

All in all a nice restaurant. Lovely ambience, good interesting food not found else where.

Price wise:  Around 180 baht/person. I think the prices are quite reasonable for the quality.

The serving size is OK (not huge, but acceptable). It would be nice if the portions are a bit bigger.

Wo Wo Tou 
203 Moo 6  T. Faham, A. Muang,
Chiang Mai
(Mae Jo-Phrao Rd)
Tel: 053 246 777
Hours: 10am-10pm daily
Facebook page

Direction: Coming from the city towards Mae Jo University, take the 1st U-turn after Meechok Plaza / Ruamchoke Market. Stay in the left lane. The restaurant is between Suan Nonsee Restaurant (the restaurant with the lake in front) and Lotus Supermarket.

There are a few parking spots in front of the building.

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